How Do Electric Bicycles Work? – Detailed Functions

Off-Road Electric Bike | Qiolor Ebike
They are equipped with components like motors, batteries, controllers, and sensors, enhancing the rider's experience by providing additional power and making cycling easier, especially on inclines or over long distances.
Table of Contents

Riding an electric bicycle feels much like riding a regular bike, but it combines human power with the quiet assistance of an electric motor. This motor supports each pedal stroke, reducing the overall effort needed to move forward and accelerate. This enhances performance without replacing human effort.

The motor can travel at speeds of 25 km/h or up to 45 km/h on high-speed bikes, making riding easier. This allows you to overcome obstacles like hills and headwinds with less fatigue, letting you travel longer distances comfortably.

Benefits of Electric Bicycles

Riding Retro EleCctric Bike | Qiolor Ebike

They are practical. Electric bicycles come with a rechargeable, battery-powered motor that makes riding easier and faster than a regular bike. Compared to cars, they can also get you closer to your destination.

They are cheap. Charging an electric bike is much cheaper than refueling a gas car or motorcycle, significantly saving fuel costs. Electric bicycles can also help you avoid parking fees, which can add up quickly in urban areas. Incentives can also help lower the purchase cost, making electric bicycles more accessible to everyone. Check out some available reward programs below, which can save you between $500 and $7,500.

They are eco-friendly. The carbon footprint of electric bikes is 1/13th that of traditional gasoline-powered cars. Since electric bicycles run on electricity, they don’t emit harmful exhaust gases. Choosing an electric bike can reduce harmful pollutants, tackle climate change, and provide cleaner air for everyone. A recent study found that if we replace just 15% of car trips with electric bike rides, we could reduce traffic emissions by 12%.

They are good for your health. Despite having a motor, electric bikes are still a great way to get your body moving and stay active. Cycling offers many health benefits and can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. For those who find it difficult to ride traditional bikes due to physical limitations, electric bikes offer increased mobility. Plus, they’re fun! Electric bicycles are a great way to enjoy fresh air and explore your surroundings.

Whether you’re commuting to work or climbing steep hills, electric bicycles are a great solution to reduce physical exertion. Let’s take a closer look at the components of an electric bicycle and answer a pressing question: How do electric bicycles work?

How Do Electric Bicycles Work? 

The first component that makes an electric bicycle function is the pedal or torque sensor. The motor detects the force or rotation you apply to the pedals and responds accordingly – either proportionally (the harder you pedal, the more support the motor gives) or continuously.

There are different types of motorization: bottom bracket motors, front wheel, or rear wheel motors. Mid-drive motors tend to be more responsive because they adapt to your effort for optimal speed. On the other hand, hub motors do not measure your power but rather the crankset’s rotations, leading to faster battery consumption.

If there isn’t enough available energy, the bike engine cannot start. The power comes from the battery, usually located on the frame or the luggage rack.

Many batteries can be removed for charging, while others must be charged directly on the bike. In this case, you need a suitable spot near a power outlet. Note that energy requirements vary depending on the selected assistance mode:

  • Eco mode: Supports up to 50% of the power and extends battery life.
  • Tour mode: Useful on winding roads, providing 120% power.
  • Turbo mode: The motor provides maximum power at 300%, but at the expense of battery life.

The motor controller is usually on the handlebar or frame. This lets you decide the support level you want and keep an eye on the battery level. Some controllers have a screen with navigation, fitness tracking, travel distance, and many other features. The collected data enables optimal power support.

Components of an Electric Bicycle Infographic | Qiolor EBike

Components of an Electric Bicycle

Some electric bikes offer multiple features, such as integrated lights for night safety, GPS trackers, or fenders. While these features are useful, they are not the key components of an electric bike. The most important are a good motor, battery, sensors, frame, and powerful brakes.

Motor: The Invisible Force

The motor is undoubtedly one of the core components of an electric bike. There are various types of motors, the most common being bottom bracket motors and hub motors. Hub motors are located in the front or rear wheel of the bike.

The drive of the electric bike affects its efficiency, durability, and your riding experience:

Front Wheel: This position is the most cost-effective. Installation doesn’t affect the chain or pedals. Front hub motors work with sensors that detect how much power to send to the motor based on your pedaling speed. This makes starting after stops, right of way, or roundabouts especially easy. However, slippery or sandy surfaces can cause discomfort and make the bike unstable. Overall, this type of bike is suitable for city commuting.

Rear Wheel: This drive integrates into the smart bike’s gears, improving traction and handling. Power transfer is efficient, but the motor’s internal unfavorable leverage can lead to overheating during long climbs. This type of motor is still suitable for any terrain, whether traveling or city use.

Mid-drive Motor: Here, the electric motor is located near the pedals – the bike’s center, also known as the crank motor. This means the electric bike is stable, easy to manage, and the support is proportional to the pressure you apply to the pedals. Mid-drive motors are installed on almost all types of bikes, from city electric bikes to high-quality electric mountain bikes.

But how do you adjust the motor’s performance?

It’s simple: electric bikes usually have up to four support levels you can select using the controller. This means you feel comfortable on both flat terrain and slopes, and you can easily speed up if you’re late for a meeting.

Batteries for a Power Boost

Without a battery, an electric bike is just a regular bike. It’s the heart that drives the engine and determines the overall range. After all, it takes you where you want to go.

Batteries come in various electrical units: power, voltage, and ampere-hours. These values help you choose the capacity of your electric bike battery accordingly. Note that most electric bike batteries have an output of around 250 watts.

To ensure this heavy part of the bike doesn’t affect your balance, the battery is located in a low central position. Although batteries have become smaller and more powerful since transitioning from lead-acid to lithium-ion, they still significantly add to the bike’s weight. Therefore, you can’t use just any battery for your electric bike.

The battery should be lightweight yet powerful so as not to burden you. Older electric bike models often came with lead-acid batteries, which are heavier and store less energy. Today, electric bikes are no longer equipped with lead batteries but use lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries are lightweight but a bit pricey. However, your bike can travel many kilometers on a single charge. Charging from a traditional outlet usually takes about three to six hours. To do this, simply connect the battery to the socket like you would with your phone.

If the battery fails while riding, you can still pedal, but you’ll feel the weight of the electric bike more. This doesn’t make pedaling impossible but does make it more challenging.

How does the battery work? It depends on the type of electric bike you have:
  • Pedal Assist: When you pedal, the motor activates, boosting your speed and performance. As the pedaling slows, so does the bike’s speed. This is a popular way of working because the rider always controls the power received from the motor. In other words, you don’t let the bike do all the work.
  • Pure Electric Drive: Pure electric bikes are powered by a throttle and don’t require human power to move. However, these bikes’ batteries drain faster and are subject to stricter safety regulations as they are classified as mopeds.

Chassis and Transmission

Traditional bike frames are usually made of aluminum alloy, making them lightweight and efficient. This also applies to high-quality electric bikes: the lighter the frame, the faster the wheels, and the spokes must be strong enough to withstand bending or breaking, especially due to the higher torque of electric bikes. Therefore, it is recommended to use spokes made of chrome, steel, or brass.

The transmission includes pedals, chainrings, cranks, chains, and sprockets. These components work together to move the electric bike. Mid-drive motors directly drive the drivetrain, making shifting and pedaling easier. As a result, crank motors are popular with those who value efficiency.


Electric bikes typically reach high speeds and are heavier than traditional bikes. For these reasons, a proper braking system is crucial. Let’s delve deeper into the different types of brakes available and their benefits.

Hydraulic Disc Brakes:

Hydraulic disc brakes are a popular choice for electric bikes due to their superior stopping power and reliability. These brakes use a hydraulic fluid to transfer force from the brake lever to the brake pads, which then clamp onto the disc rotor attached to the wheel hub. Here are some advantages of hydraulic disc brakes:

  • Consistent Braking Performance: Hydraulic disc brakes provide consistent braking power in all weather conditions, whether it's wet, muddy, or dry. This makes them particularly suitable for electric bikes, which can be used in various environments.
  • Less Effort Required: These brakes require less force at the brake lever to achieve the same stopping power as mechanical brakes. This can be especially beneficial for long rides, reducing hand fatigue.
  • Self-Adjusting Mechanism: Hydraulic disc brakes have a self-adjusting mechanism that ensures the brake pads are always at the optimal distance from the disc rotor, providing consistent performance and reducing the need for frequent adjustments.

Mechanical Disc Brakes:

Mechanical disc brakes use a cable to transfer the force from the brake lever to the brake pads. While not as powerful as hydraulic systems, they still offer significant advantages over traditional rim brakes:

  • Ease of Maintenance: Mechanical disc brakes are easier to maintain than hydraulic systems. You can adjust and replace the cables and brake pads without needing specialized tools or knowledge.
  • Lower Cost: Generally, mechanical disc brakes are more affordable than hydraulic ones, making them a good choice for budget-conscious riders.

Rim Brakes:

Rim brakes, also known as caliper brakes or V-brakes, are a traditional braking system where the brake pads clamp onto the rim of the wheel. While they are less common on electric bikes, they still offer some benefits:

  • Lightweight: Rim brakes are typically lighter than disc brakes, which can be beneficial for reducing the overall weight of the bike.
  • Simplicity: Rim brakes are simple in design and easy to maintain. They don’t require the same level of technical knowledge as hydraulic systems.
  • Cost-Effective: Rim brakes are usually less expensive than disc brakes, making them a cost-effective option for those who primarily ride in dry conditions and flat terrains.

Regenerative Braking:

Some high-end electric bikes feature regenerative braking systems, which convert some of the kinetic energy generated during braking back into electrical energy, recharging the battery slightly. While this technology is still developing and is more common in electric vehicles like cars, it represents an exciting advancement for electric bikes.


The controller acts as the brain of the electric bike. It establishes the connection between the smart bike motor, battery, and various components. Its job is to regulate the strength of the electrical signals.

Different Types of Electric Assistance

With the growing popularity of electric bikes, pedal-assist systems are becoming standard equipment. They generate power through pedaling, thus contributing to the movement.

There are mainly two types of pedal-assist systems:

Non-proportional support: Pedal Sensor

Non-proportional support systems, also known as pedal sensors, activate continuous power support once the sensor detects magnets on the crankset. It only works when you pedal. The pressure you apply to the pedals doesn’t affect the motor’s performance and doesn’t automatically adjust to changes in force. However, you can choose the desired support level, such as Eco, Tour, or Turbo.

Proportional support: Torque Sensor

With a torque sensor, just a light pressure on the pedals is enough to activate the support. The system detects your driving speed and sends a signal to the motor about how much power needs to be provided. This makes your electric bike ride particularly frictionless and effortless. You’ll find this type of support especially on high-quality electric bikes.

Sunshine Riding Electric Bike | Qiolor Ebike


Electric bicycles combine human power with an electric motor to make riding easier, allowing you to travel faster and farther with less effort. They are practical, cost-effective, eco-friendly, and beneficial for health. Key components include the motor, battery, sensors, frame, and brakes. Different braking systems and assistance modes enhance safety and performance. Various incentives and options like pre-owned bikes and conversion kits can make owning an electric bike more affordable.

Further Reading and Resources

When considering the purchase and use of an electric bike, several key aspects contribute to an optimal experience.

Suitable Standover Height: A Key to a Comfortable eBike is crucial for comfort and safety, ensuring easy mounting and dismounting.

How to Ride an Electric Bike? involves familiarizing oneself with the controls, practicing balance, and managing the bike's power.

How Fast Does a 750 Watt Electric Bike Go? A 750-watt eBike typically reaches speeds of up to 28 miles per hour, offering a swift ride.

Why Do Most Bicyclists Hate eBikes? Many traditional bicyclists dislike eBikes due to safety concerns and the perceived undermining of cycling's physical challenge. Understanding these factors can help new eBike riders navigate their use responsibly and enjoyably.


What is an electric bicycle?

An electric bicycle is a bike equipped with an electric motor that assists with pedaling.

How far can an electric bike go on a single charge?

The range varies but typically between 20 to 50 miles, depending on the battery capacity and riding conditions.

Do you still have to pedal an electric bike?

Yes, most electric bikes require pedaling, but the motor provides assistance to make pedaling easier.

26 MPH
Top Speed
60 / 130 Miles
400 LBS
Max Load
Robust Motor

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The Qiolor family blends the iconic motorcycle aesthetic of the '90s with today's e-bike innovations. Be inspired by the free-spirited California lifestyle and join the Qiolor community today to connect with other enthusiasts and get exclusive updates.
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